My workplace is unionized and even if you don't join the union a portion of your pay is still deducted to pay for the union's role in negotiating your contract.

The union recently has been getting involved in a number of political activities far beyond the situation of our particular workplace (relating to foreign policy, not domestic issues e.g. supporting pro-union candidates which you might expect from a union). This is making a fair number of people upset, because our dues are being spent on political activities we disagree with.

Most workers are not really paying attention to these issues and the union leadership is pretty undemocratic - e.g. when a position opened up on the sub-committee dealing with these issues and someone who opposed these activities asked to join the sub-committee, they turned around and said that for logistical reasons they had to get rid of the opening.

I don't want to be represented by a union that isn't focused directly on the issues that we have the union for - negotiating a better contract and better work conditions.

What are some effective strategies for making this happen outside of trying to "take over" the union through a political campaign in the next election cycle?

As I said there is a group of us who are fighting the union to stop its activities. Is it possible to threaten the union's ability to represent the workers, e.g. by a mass exodus of 10-20% of the workers? Or threaten to establishment of a second "competing" union, if enough of the current members express their intention to leave the union? Since unions are created through a process of worker consent (i.e. if enough workers in a workplace state the intention that they want to create a union, a union must be created) I imagine that it must be possible to revoke that consent.

  • Exactly what is the issue and there are a lot of valid Union issues that transcend national borders.
    – Pepone
    Oct 19, 2014 at 16:54
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    It doesnt matter what the issue is and I would urge you to remove the details you have provided. This question is not asking for legal advice but rather how to take action that has some legal implications. But everything we do potentially has legal implications so this is no more off topic for that reason than any other question here. Oct 19, 2014 at 21:19
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    I don't think this is off-topic; it's asking how, as an employee, to deal with a union that's running amok. How is that different from asking about a bad manager (who can hold your job hostage) or any other workplace-conflict issue? Oct 20, 2014 at 3:30
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    I am going to reopen this on the basis of two extant reopen votes, two mods feeling it should be reopened, edits, and all the comments (and comment upvotes) here. Oct 20, 2014 at 16:23
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    Leave the union, and go to your company and make them stop giving your salary to the union. If they refuse, get the 10-20% who agree with you and walk out. I highly doubt your company's any happier about the union than you are, and you're a great excuse to take that clause out of the contract. Oct 21, 2014 at 1:02

3 Answers 3


I can only speak of UK Unions which are noticeably different from Unions in the USA.

Firstly, understand that you will never agree 100% with anyone. I'm sure Barack Obama doesn't agree with every single thing his party does. It's worth determining if this is a fight worth having - or whether you just disagree with the colour they've painted the bikesheds?

Accepting the seriousness of your accusations, the second thing you must understand is that unions are made up of their members. You should look at the rules under which they are governed. It may be as simple as you writing a motion to be voted on - or as complicated as requiring 2/3rds of quorate members the agree to raise a motion to be voted on by the executive committee.

Talk to your local rep (or US equivalent) and see what it is you need to do. Don't start by being confrontational - ask what the situation is and whether it is something you can reasonably change.

Once you are in full command of the facts, you will be able to rally others to your cause.

Unions - and all democratic institutions - rely on active members. It may take only a few dozen of you voting in order to make a substantial change.

Ok, that was the generic answer to your question. Now, let me talk a little about the specifics. Again, this is from a UK perspective. I've been actively involved in Trade Unions my entire working life, so I have some experience in this.

The Union movement is built on solidarity. Our voices are weak individually, but together they are strong. Sometimes that means going along with a decision that you don't agree with in order to win a larger battle.

For example, you may vote for a politician you like even though you disagree with her stance on one particular aspect of policy.

Union finances should be transparent. I remember a very long argument about whether our union should keep funding a particular political activity. After much screaming and shouting, we discovered that the total sum being spent was in the order of £200. Yup. A couple of hundred quid.

What I'm saying is, check to see if this is as bad as you think it is. Are you prepared to split your union - and weaken your negotiation power - over a minor matter?

If, however, it is as bad as you say - you should exercise your democratic power and make some changes. It is your union.


Run for union rep? If you become part of the leadership, you get to have a say in what goes on.

Short of that, unfortunately, there may not be much you can do. I personally would not be a member of one. But that's just me.

  • or found a new union?
    – Sascha
    May 21, 2019 at 0:12

Your options depend a lot on the laws where you live. Here in the US, there are some states that have "right-to-work" laws and others that don't. There have been several court cases that touched on these issues:

Under Janus, if you're a member of a public employees' union, then you can choose not to be a member. That is, even in states like California that are not "right-to-work" states, you don't have to pay union dues if you don't want to be a member of a public employees' union. Think carefully about whether you want to do this, because, e.g., if you have a grievance, the union may not be willing to help you.

You may also be able to remain a dues-paying union member, but opt out of the portion of your dues that is used for political purposes. Changes in the law have made this much easier.

Is it possible to threaten the union's ability to represent the workers, e.g. by a mass exodus of 10-20% of the workers? Or threaten to establishment of a second "competing" union, if enough of the current members express their intention to leave the union?

These options sound extremely impractical or impossible. I believe when a workplace is organized, the options are either no union or one union. I don't think an NLRB-sanctioned election can result in more than one union representing the same class of workers in the same workplace.

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